MLB scores a homerun in ratings

A hot week for baseball continued on Tuesday as Fox’s coverage of the All-Star Game drew the Midsummer Classic’s largest aud in six years.

One night after ESPN drew a record 9.12 million viewers for its “Home Run Derby” competition, the game from New York helped Fox log its best numbers for any night this summer.

According to Nielsen, the American League’s 4-3 victory over the National League averaged a strong 4.5 rating/14 share in adults 18-49 and 14.54 million viewers overall from 8:42 p.m. to 11:42 p.m. ET. (The 15-inning contest actually went on until about 1:40 a.m. ET, but Fox was allowed by Nielsen to claim its nine-inning average rather than include the six extra innings).

Contest peaked in the 10 o’clock half-hour with a 4.9/14 in 18-49 and about 16 million viewers overall.

This year’s All-Star Game was up 10% in 18-49 over last year’s (4.1/12), while its overall audience was the largest since the 2002 contest (14.7 million).

Nostalgia surrounding the game being played in the final year of Yankee Stadium seemed to stoke interest in some surprising corners. While there were minor gains in core young-male demos, there were also impressive gains among men 55-plus (up 17%) and women 18-49 (up 24%). And in another good sign, viewership shot up by 22% among male teens (3.9/16 vs. 3.2/12).

Game logged an impressive 17.1 household rating/28 share in New York (equal to roughly 1.25 million homes). Many major markets hit at least five-year highs Tuesday, including some whose teams are very much in contention after the first half of the season: Chicago (16.5/27), Philadelphia (12.6/21) and Tampa (11.7/21).

The “All-Star Pre-Game Show” was also potent this year (3.0/11 in 18-49, 10.37m), building 20% in 18-49 over last year (2.5/9) to hit a four-year high.

Elsewhere Tuesday, ABC’s “Wipeout” (3.2/11 in 18-49, 8.65m) was most affected by baseball, declining 16% from its prior average but still standing as the night’s top entertainment program among young adults. It tied with NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” (3.2/9, 12.79m), which held up better week to week and was once again the night’s most-watched entertainment program.

In the crowded 9 o’clock hour, “Talent” towered over the Tuesday debut of CBS’ “Big Brother 10″ (2.2/6 in 18-49, 6.10m), which was in line with its Sunday season premiere and down 15% from its Tuesday debut in 2007 (which was that season’s preem).

“Brother” was edged out in demos by ABC’s “I Survived a Japanese Gameshow” (2.3/7, 5.70m), which, like lead-in “Wipeout,” posted its lowest scores in its four airings to date.

In cable, A&E averaged a 1.0/3 in 18-49 and 2.58 million viewers overall for the debut of its drama “The Cleaner,” starring Benjamin Bratt. It built a bit on its lead-in from “The First 48″ (0.9/3, 2.15m).

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